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BANGLADESH: Salesian Missionaries Providing Assistance in Wake of Extreme Flooding Torrential Rains

(MissionNewswire) Flooding in northern Bangladesh has continued throughout the month of September destroying crops and affecting close to 2 million people. Torrential rains the first two weeks of September left up to half a million homeless, according to a recent IRIN article. According to government figures, 17 people have drowned and there have been 506 cases reported of pneumonia, 1,850 cases of diarrheal disease from contaminated water and 540 cases of skin infections.

The rain continued late into the month and water levels in all the rivers of Bangladesh are steadily inching towards dangerously high levels. The Someswari River which is located in the northern part of Bangladesh and originates in the Indian state of Meghalaya and enters the plains of Bangladesh near Durgapur, registered an unprecedented rise in water level. On Sept. 21 alone, the water level in the river rose by more than nine feet, a level more than five feet above what is considered dangerous. On Sept.23, the river broke its bank in three places and inundated several villages, swallowed up houses and deposited sand and mud in farming fields.

“Until a few weeks back people in Durgapur Upazilla, Bangladesh, were praying for rain to save their crops,” says Father Gamaliel, a Salesian working in Utrail, Bangladesh. “But now they are praying for the rain to stop in order to save at least their lives and the livestock from the fury of the raging Someswari River, which has already broken its banks in several places along its course.”

Salesians already working and living in the region are assisting flood victims as best they can with limited means. Salesian centers are providing those who have lost their homes a safe place to stay as well as clothing and food.

“The Salesians are studying the situation,” says Father Francis Alencherry, rector of the Salesian community in Utrail, who visited the flood affected regions. “Once the water recedes we will be able to gauge the damage done by the inundation. Though we are not in a position to immediately answer to this full humanitarian crisis, we are helping the flood affected people to get back to their normal life in the days to come. We continue to work to solve this repeated flooding with a long-term solution in mind.”

Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries with a population of 156 million people, close to 30 percent of whom live below the national poverty line of US $2 per day. Despite a growing population, Bangladesh experienced a steady decline in poverty between 2000 and 2010 with a 1.8 percent decline annually between 2000 and 2005 and 1.7 percent decline annually between 2005 and 2010, according to the World Bank.

Bangladesh suffers from poor infrastructure, political instability, corruption and insufficient power supplies. Close to 80 percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas. Many people who live in remote and rural areas lack access to education, health care and adequate roads. An estimated 36 percent of the rural population lives below the poverty line and owns no land or assets, experiences persistent food insecurity and often has very little education.

Malnutrition levels in Bangladesh are among the highest in the world with close to 48 percent of children, adolescents and women facing food insecurity, according to UNICEF. In addition to contributing to maternal and child mortality, malnutrition exacts heavy costs from the health care system through excess morbidity, increased premature delivery and elevated risks of heart disease and diabetes. The economic consequences of Bangladesh’s malnutrition problem are profound, resulting in lost productivity and reduced intellectual and learning capacity.

Salesians working in the country focus their efforts on education and social development services for poor youth and their families. Salesian schools, services and programs throughout Bangladesh are helping to break the cycle of poverty while giving many hope for a more positive and productive future.



Don Bosco India – Flood in Bangladesh leaves thousands marooned, a Salesian reports from the spot

IRIN – Bangladesh floods test disaster response improvements

World Bank – Bangladesh Poverty Assessment: A Decade of Progress in Reducing Poverty, 2000-2010

World Bank – Bangladesh Poverty